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History of a Pleasure Seekerby Richard Mason
Synopses & Reviews
From the acclaimed author of The Drowning People (“A literary sensation” —The New York Times Book Review) and Natural Elements (“A magnum opus” —The New Yorker), an opulent, romantic coming-of-age drama set at the height of Europe’s belle époque, written in the grand tradition with a lightness of touch that is wholly modern and original.
The novel opens in Amsterdam at the turn of the last century. It moves to New York at the time of the 1907 financial crisis and proceeds onboard a luxury liner headed for Cape Town.
It is about a young man — Piet Barol — with an instinctive appreciation for pleasure and a gift for finding it. Piet’s father is an austere administrator at Holland’s oldest university. His mother, a singing teacher, has died — but not before giving him a thorough grounding in the arts of charm.
Piet applies for a job as tutor to the troubled son of Europe’s leading hotelier: a child who refuses to leave his family’s mansion on Amsterdam’s grandest canal. As the young man enters this glittering world, he learns its secrets — and soon, quietly, steadily, finds his life transformed as he in turn transforms the lives of those around him.
History of a Pleasure Seeker is a brilliantly written portrait of the senses, a novel about pleasure and those who are in search of it; those who embrace it, luxuriate in it, need it; and those who deprive themselves of it as they do those they love. It is a book that will beguile and transport you — to another world, another time, another state of being.
"The title of Mason's latest misleads, not only because his story details an interlude in a young man's life, not a history, but also because this man is less a seeker than a receiver. The operative word, however, is pleasure, which comes in abundance to both the reader and the seductively handsome Piet Barol. The story opens in Amsterdam, 1907, during the belle epoque, which Mason evokes with delightful period detail. Piet, at 24, is hired as a tutor for the deeply troubled son of the wealthy Maarten Vermeulen-Sickerts, a devout Calvinist whose belief in predetermination guides him to a degree that he conceals even from his cherished wife, Jacobina. Their obsessive son, Egbert, is tormented by invisible demons; his suffering adds weight to a tale that is otherwise amusingly, at times stubbornly, lighthearted. No one, including Jacobina or Egbert's two older sisters, fails to notice Piet's allure. He is bright, talented, and ambitious, but he trusts those qualities less than he trusts his sexuality, which leads him to many enthusiastic encounters with women, including Jacobina, and men, and helps him slide haplessly into passivity. Mason (Natural Elements) writes with sensuality and humor, but the novel fails to deeply satisfy, especially at its forced and hollow end. Agent: Anderson Literary Management." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Beautifully observed, perfectly paced, genuinely sexy, and in the end, a terrifically fun read. Mason's ability to inhabit the inner voices of the servants and those they serve lends the book a rich realism." The Boston Globe
An opulent, romantic novel, written in the grand manner, set at the height of Europe's belle epoque, about a handsome young man in his mid-twenties — a golden boy who secures a position as a tutor in the household of one of the most prominent bourgeois families in Amsterdam and his entry into a world of moneyed glamour and dangerous temptations.
Piet Barol, blue-eyed, dark-haired, seductive and seductively charged, enters this magnificent world, and inexorably learns the hidden truths of this vastly rich, secretive family and, through the course of the novel, is profoundly transformed as his charm and sexual pull transform each of their lives. In the heady exhilaration of this new world, amid delights and temptations that Piet has only dreamed of, he discovers that some of the intimacies he has cultivated are dangerous liaisons indeed.... By the author of The Drowning People .
About the Author
Richard Mason was born in South Africa in 1978 and lives in New York City. His first novel, The Drowning People, published when he was twenty-one and still a student at Oxford, sold more than a million copies worldwide and won Italy’s Grinzane Cavour Prize for Best First Novel. He is also the author of Natural Elements, which was chosen by The Washington Post as one of the best books of 2009 and longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Sunday Times Literary Award. History of a Pleasure Seeker is his fourth novel. In 1999, with Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mason started the Kay Mason Foundation (www.kaymasonfoundation.org), which helps disadvantaged South Africans receive quality education. Mason received the Inyathelo Merit Award for Philanthropy in 2010.
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